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No increases projected for Hedberg Public Library budget

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 21, 2011
— Spending by the Hedberg Public Library would drop about 2.9 percent in 2012, according to the library's proposed 2012 budget.

Library spending, including debt service, would decline from $4.10 million in 2011 to $3.98 million in 2012.


The rest of the city budget will be distributed to the city council in early October. The library budget traditionally is released earlier.


Bryan McCormick, library director, said City Manager Eric Levitt asked him to "focus on a flat budget."


The tax levy for the library would stay the same at $3.2 million.


The council last year voted to close the library on Friday nights to save money.


New changes in state law that required public employees to pay half their pension contributions helped McCormick keep increases as bay, he said.


"We're probably the only department where the tools that the governor gave us as far as the contributions and pension fund worked the way it was supposed to," McCormick said.


The library's expenses went down because employees are contributing more, meaning the city will contribute less, McCormick said.


"In our case, the pension contributions basically offset a number of annual increases in operations," he said.


That won't work in other departments because the city signed two-year contracts with its union employees before the law was signed. Police officers and firefighters are exempt from the requirement, and those employees are the majority of unionized workers.


Gaps in the budget would remain even if all city employees paid half of their pension contributions because the cuts in state aid have been so severe, Levitt has said.


The library budget includes a 1.75 percent increase in salaries.


Union contracts with other city employees include increases ranging from 1.5 to 1.75 percent in 2012.


No employees at the library are represented by unions.


The library also is paying off less debt because borrowing from five years ago will be paid off in 2012.


"We're not in as bad of shape as other government agencies," McCormick said. "We're able to move forward with a flat budget as far as no tax levy increase at this time."


McCormick's budget does not include using the library's reserve funds, something budgeted in some prior years. The library did not borrow from its fund balance in 2011, either.


In 2012, the library might be able to return money to its reserve, McCormick said.


The reserve is budgeted to remain unchanged at $433,473.


McCormick believes future budgets will continue to be tough, especially because levy increases are restricted by the state.


In the future, "If we have a 1 or 2 percent cost of living increase for our employees, that might be something we have to budget for from our fund balance," McCormick said.


The 2012 budget contains no new initiatives.


Library circulation is projected to be about 1.17 million in 2012. It was almost 1.2 million in 2009 and 1.14 million in 2010.


"There are definitely some families that left the area," McCormick said.


Library attendance, however, has increased, he believes. Attendance last year was about 800,000. Attendance so far this year is just over 500,000.



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